3 Retirement Moves to Make in the New Year

Gold balloons spelling out 2019 against a pink background with gold confetti

A new year means a new opportunity to set yourself up for a financially secure future. Here are a few key moves to make for your retirement over the next 12 months.

1. Assess your savings

Though there's no magic savings number that guarantees financial security in retirement, as a general rule, you should aim to reach the following milestones depending on your age:

Data source: Recommendations from Fidelity Investments and endorsed by author.

These numbers are what Fidelity Investments recommends, and frankly, they're a good starting point to work with. Therefore, if you're 50 years old and earning $100,000 and only have, say, $120,000 socked away for the future, it means you'll need to start doing better. The same holds true if you're among the 42% of Americans with less than $10,000 set aside for retirement.

Gold balloons spelling out 2019 against a pink background with gold confetti

Image source: Getty Images.

As the new year kicks off, take an honest look at your savings and see how well you're doing based on your age. It could be the case that you're doing just fine and are in a strong position to retire on schedule, but if you're not, it's better to know sooner rather than later.

2. Ramp up your IRA or 401(k) contributions

Whether you're actually behind on savings or want to buy yourself some more financial freedom in retirement, the start of a new year is a great time to increase your retirement plan contributions -- especially if your salary is going up at the same time. In fact, sending your raise directly into your 401(k) is an easy way to boost your savings without having to make too many lifestyle changes in the process.

The same holds true if you're getting a bonus that will be paid out early on in the new year. If you take that cash and stick it directly into your 401(k) or IRA, you'll get the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're already making progress on your savings goals.

Of course, if you're not getting a raise or bonus in 2019 but want to do better on the savings front, you'll need to rethink your budget and make changes that free up cash. That could entail anything from downsizing your living space to cutting back on luxuries like cable and restaurant meals.

Keep in mind that retirement plan contribution limits are higher in 2019 than they've been in the past. If you have access to a 401(k) through work, you can contribute up to $19,000 in 2019 if you're under 50, or $25,000 if you're 50 or older. And if you're saving in an IRA, you can sock away up to $6,000 in 2019 if you're under 50, or $7,000 if you're 50 or over.

3. Read up on Social Security

Even if you save respectably for retirement, there's a good chance you'll end up relying on Social Security to pay a portion of your senior living expenses. And the sooner you read up on the program and how it works , the better positioned you'll be to make the most of it down the line.

Even if retirement is years away, there are steps you can take in 2019 to secure higher benefits in the future. For one thing, fight for a raise if you didn't get one. Your Social Security benefits are calculated based on your highest 35 years of earnings, so the more you make year after year, the more you stand to collect in the future.

Furthermore, be sure to check your annual Social Security earnings statement at some point in 2019. If you spot an error that works against you (say, there's a lower amount of income on record for the past year than what you actually earned), correcting it could prevent your benefits from getting lowered down the line.

Finally, if you're turning 62 in 2019, know that you're allowed to start taking benefits -- but consider holding off nonetheless. You're not entitled to your full monthly benefits until you reach full retirement age , and that, depending on your year of birth, is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between. If you rush to file as early as possible, you'll reduce your monthly benefits, thereby potentially lowering a key income stream for life.

The moves you make in 2019 could set the stage for the retirement of your dreams. Evaluate your savings, ramp up your IRA or 401(k) contributions, and get schooled on Social Security so that you're in the best possible position to enjoy your golden years once they kick off.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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